Audio Soup returned for a sixth year this weekend and just keeps getting better and better.
The site, nestled in the hills by the a river near the village of Cranshaws in the Scottish Borders, had been extended again this year. The wider arena area meant that the marketplace was bigger this year with a wider range of stallholders and attractions for Soupers to enjoy.
There were familiar faces such as Meadowsweet, Juniper Sun and Lotus Crystals as well as newbies such as the wonderfully named and genuinely amazing Yorlin Y. Not's Turkish Steam Room and Tepidarium. The hand built mosaic tiled steam room is wood fired and heated to 50 degrees Celsius. You close the door behind you and the outside world seems very far away. It is also apparently an excellent hangover cure and certainly seemed popular with Soupers as a steady stream of happy punters poured through the doors throughout the weekend. Also popular was Arbor-Antics and their hand crafted traditional games designed to test your skills and judgement.
There were more caterers on site this year, with Soupers able to choose from a range of food. The Beat-root cafe was back with its popular menu of veggie food, there was a veggie breakfast van and Edin Burgers for the meat-eaters. The Haggisman was also on site with, yes you've guessed it, haggis, as well as salmon and venison. There were some lovely falafels and wraps, a French-inspired take on local Scottish produce at Opsono as well as the always wonderful Mutley's Crepes.
The bigger site also meant that even though attendance numbers were up again on previous years the festival still didn't feel crowded and kept its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Organisers laid on buses from Edinburgh and Glasgow once again, which nearly sold out, and were also quick off the mark in flagging up diversion routes to the festival after the road on one of the main routes to the site was washed away in extreme weather conditions just days before the festival.
By Friday the site was dry and ready to welcome Soupers old and new. Friday night set the scene for a weekend of partying and catching up with old friends and making new ones - everywhere you looked people were hugging each other, smiling, and introducing folk to new friends as everyone began to arrive.
The Girobabies opened the festival but the first band of the weekend for us was The Black Diamond Express who impressed with their rock 'n' roots blues vibe, enhanced by an authentic pre-war look. Singer Jack of Diamonds has a great voice and the eight-piece band totally rocked out to Charley Patton's Rattlesnake Blues, their version of The Wailin' Jennys' Racing with the Sun and other delta blues classics, interspersed with their own original material.
The Edinburgh-based band, who supported The Mavericks in Glasgow earlier this year, are next appearing at the Southern Fried festival in Perth this weekend alongside the likes of Imelda May and Mary Chapin Carpenter and are well worth catching, if only for their 100 percent guarantee to blow away cobwebs and cure "doubt, melancholia and sobriety".
The Electrikal Stage, the Boom Bap Dome, the Beat-root Cafe and Venue 42 kept the party going until the wee small hours with happy Soupers carrying on throughout the night back at the campsite, chatting, singing and laughing until dawn.
Saturday dawned relatively bright and sunny and as the site woke up, or at least returned to the arena after their night of partying, and it was a joy to see so many colourful and creative outfits and costumes on display. Sporting some of the most colourful and creative looks were the crew from Alien Aerobics who provided a gentle warm up for the day for those gathered at the main stage.
Ac Rid was the first band of the day on the main stage on Saturday and certainly blew some cobwebs away with their brand of ska metal. The Edinburgh-based six -piece blasted out tunes such as Turn Up Your Radio, I Only Need Rock 'n' Roll and I Don't Care.
Next up was Glasgow's Mummy Short Arms, graduating from their Beatroot Cafe slot at last year's Soup to the main stage this year. They rattled through their set with an intensity that was infectious, grabbing the audience by the scruff of their neck and taking them on a wild ride, giving it laldy with their Louisana-swamp-meets-metal wall of sound style. The stories in the songs Mexican Girl, Coyote Surprise, and a heartfelt Rusty Jose, were sung with passion by vocalist James Allan and played with conviction by the rest of the band.
The Yellow Movement was back at Audio Soup once again for another main stage performance, headed up this time by Jamie and Shoony. The exuberant urban indie punk quartet, who are currently recording their second EP, are in the middle of a string of festival performances this summer, including the last ever Loch Lomond Boat Party earlier this month and Jocktoberfest in Inverness in September. They also supported their good friends and fellow members of the Yellow Movement, Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5, at T in the Park earlier this month.
The movement was in typically fine fettle and voice at Soup and Jamie and Shoony's set included catchy sing-along crowd-favourite anthems such as Settle Down, Anyway, and the Soup-named Cowboy Ninja Robots, as well as crowd surfing and free CDs – what's not to love about these guys?!
The energy continued with Certain Death, the thrash and rap metal band that features former members of The Exploited, Black Bomb-A and The Real McKenzies. The band has been performing at venues and festivals across the UK, Europe and Scandinavia since 2002, and shows - including this one at Audio Soup - often feature super-soaking the audience with cider. This gig also included new material such as Donald Trump Must Die. So there you go.
The Cackle Bar, like the Beat-root Cafe, offers a quieter, more mellow scene than the main stage and the deep bass of the DJs at the Electrikal Stage or the Boom Bap Dome. Billed as a place of "fun, fancies and frolics" it served up an eclectic mix of music and performances over the course of the weekend, everything from yoga to cocktails, and this year included a performance by none other than Jesse Rae.
The singer, songwriter, composer and film maker, who is based in the Scottish Borders, appeared, as he always does, in Highland battle dress, complete with helmet and claymore. Best known for Over the Sea and for writing Inside Out, a hit for Odyssey in 1982, Jesse – who has also stood as an independent candidate in the last three general elections - appears at gigs every now and again, performing in front of his own videos when the technology allows and bringing his self-styled funk hero to a whole new generation.
Back on the main stage it was time for Laid Blak, headed up by two veterans of the jungle scene, DJ Bunjy and MC Joe Peng. The field was jumping throughout their set, which was a beautiful mash-up of covers such as A Message To You Rudy and original material, reggae and ska and so much else - hints of funk, dashes of hip-hop and sprinklings of jazz.
New for this year at Soup was a fire show, although it's location at the opposite end of the arena to the main stage made for a difficult choice for many between the fire-starters and the Harbingers Drum Crew drumming group and The Correspondents. The fire show delighted those who gathered to watch and the dancing culminated with the ceremonial lighting of a huge willow-weaved stag.
Sunday morning saw a change in the weather as showers of soft Scottish rain fell intermittently throughout the day but nothing was going to dampen the spirits of the Soupers who danced their way through the afternoon and evening.
Urban Folk Crowd were the first band of the day for us on the main stage. Their blend of hip hop, folk and indie was perfect for easing your way into the afternoon with the band jokingly claiming that they were going to fill their set with banter rather than tunes and Conscious Route saying that he was making some of the songs up as he went along. They played Outside Looking In, Like A Harvest and Where Did The Time Go in a set that showcased the contrasting and yet complementary vocal talents of Conscious Route and Calum Carlyle.
Noah Noah described themselves as the "resident hipster band" on the Soup line-up, complete with brogues and beards. The new quartet from Edinburgh, who are currently recording their latest EP, belted out Champion, Lips, Bench and Mr McVean, and then a song about the rain - just as the rain started again after a wee break. The peddlars of indie, electro pop and rock continued to play their hearts out during their 45-minute set despite the rain to the delight of those who stayed to enjoy the music rather than running for cover in any of the nearby tents.
Next on the main stage was Nipples Of Venus. They opened with a storming version of Rhythm of the Night and Ace of Base's All that she wants, starting as they were going to carry on. It was back to the 90s with a set full of tunes from the decade as they covered everything from the Spice Girls and Spice up Your life, Apache, Bobby Brown's Two Can Play at that Game and Shaggy It Wasn't Me. Miserlou, No Limits, Free from Desire, Whigfield's Saturday Night, the Venga Bus and God Gave Rock and Roll to You were all given the skanking treatment from the eight piece band, who had dressed for the occasion and were all kitted out in Addidas tops and shell suits - and who seemed to be having as much fun as the audience throughout their energetic set.
Sea Bass Kid are Soup regulars and were back again for third helpings this year. They played some new material from the album that they are currently working on and their set also included a song that was dedicated to Vladimir Putin for this gig at least.
The hi-energy eight-piece band from Edinburgh, who feature on a new Scottish ska CD, Tembling Earth, alongside the likes of Bombskare, Esperanza, The Amphetameanies, Big Fat Panda and the Victorian Trout Conspiracy, gave a typically infectious performance perfectly illustrating why they are Soup favourites.
The Inexplicables are a beatbox sensation from Bristol and the five piece band debuted their new female vocalist for the first time at Soup. They introduced a song about the summer time, performed Golden Egg and gave a nod to Seasick Steve with Slick Steve from 2016's album Proper Gander. Jack Salt's beatbox prowess is undeniably impressive and the whole set was energetic and entertaining.
And then it was time for Soup stalwarts and festival headliners, the UK's official best part-time band, the mighty Bombskare. They opened with Catastrof**k, blasting into Crime of the Century, Freedom 35, Where Eagles Dare, Do All Dogs Go To Heaven, Walk Like an Egyptian, Fistful of Dynamite, Dark Side of the Moon and Toxic - "the way it should have been recorded". The band were as energetic as ever, Murray's and Andy's voices both on fine form, the brass section charging through the numbers, guitar strings and drumsticks breaking left, right and centre as they powered through their set in a field-storming climax to another wonderful Audio Soup.
Bombskare guitarist Ali Wells is one of the organisers of Soup and had spent the weekend working alongside the rest of the Soup crew to ensure that it was another stress-free happy event for festie goers, and the band paid tribute to his always chilled out and hands-on attitude, changing their set finisher 'Sally Brown' to 'Ali Wells'.
I cannot overstate how lovely this festival is. Year after year it delivers in terms of great music and a great atmosphere. It truly is the most friendly festival and has a wonderful vibe to it – it is like a great big family get together only without the family arguments. It is laid back and chilled out and there is no aggro, everyone helps each other and supports each other, dances, eats and laughs together – and come back year after year to do it all again, many of them as volunteers – and all of this is down to the organisers who have led by example and created that atmosphere.
The festival lives by its abiding principles of inclusivity and community, with plenty of focal points for people to get together and relax. Kids have the freedom to mooch around, play in the hay, sit by the campfire or enjoy the mini-soupers kids area which fosters co-operation, sharing and child-led play.
As the main stage closed for another year, folk wandered back to their tents and vans after another amazing event to the particularly appropriate tune of Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book: "Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife. I mean the bare necessities, old Mother Nature's Recipes, that brings the bare necessities of life."
And that pretty much sums up the Audio Soup ethos and vibe and the recipe for its success just perfectly.
latest on this festival
Audio Soup 2017 review
festival home page
Audio Soup Festival 2016 review